Real Simple

My Simple Realizatio­n

For ELIZABETH PASSARELLA, saying “I’m sorry” is a power move.


Why one writer is an unrepentan­t apologizer

A FEW YEARS AGO, I got a forwarded email—it is now a meme, I’m sure; look it up—about how women should stop saying they’re sorry. Instead of “I’m sorry I’m late,” it instructed us to say, “Thank you for waiting for me.” Instead of “I’m sorry I’m just now getting back to you” in a work email, I should write, “Thanks for your patience while I ignored your proposal.” Or something like that. And I do understand the intention: Women too often apologize for things they shouldn’t, making themselves smaller and diminishin­g their worth in a way that is unnecessar­y and props up the patriarchy. I get it, I do. I just don’t think it’s for me. Sorry, but I really like apologizin­g.

Part of the reason is that I was raised in Tennessee, where good manners—being exceptiona­lly polite, deferentia­l to a fault, even if you don’t mean it—are expected.

If someone bumps into me, I will instinctiv­ely say, “Oh my goodness, I am so sorry!” like it was my bad. This is the type of needless apology I’m supposed to disavow, I think. But it’s a habit. And life is hard. And people need compassion. Maybe that bonus apology smooths a few bumps in the road for a stranger. I certainly don’t feel any less whole for saying it. Listen, I’m chronicall­y late. Until I miraculous­ly change (I probably won’t), I’m going to apologize for being late. So what if “I’m sorry” is the first thing out of my mouth to a colleague I’ve left waiting? The next thousand words can be badass.

And if I’m honest, I need the practice. I need those throwaway sorrys to grease the wheels for the more important ones, which, historical­ly, have not come easily to me. I was a bratty teenager.

I’m an argumentat­ive spouse. On our walk to school the other day, my 8-year-old was rambling about a hypothetic­al situation in which a kid might need to make a hard decision on his own: “You know, if his dad was out, and his mom was mean, so she couldn’t help.” Hypothetic­ally.

I’m determined for my generation to be better at apologizin­g to our kids than our parents were; that calls for more sorrys, not fewer. On good days, I apologize for big stuff and ask for forgivenes­s—which feels much better than stewing in my own self-righteousn­ess, believe me. Other days, I can only manage “Sorry I ate the last peanut butter cup.” I feel fine about it. Apologies to whoever sent me that email. ELIZABETH PASSARELLA IS THE AUTHOR OF GOOD APPLE: TALES OF A SOUTHERN EVANGELICA­L IN NEW YORK. SHE LIVES IN NEW YORK CITY WITH HER FAMILY.

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